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Monday, June 24, 2013
Updated: June 25, 10:54 AM ET
No experience required

By Paul Moran
Special to ESPN.com

Less than a month before opening day at Saratoga, the newly appointed chief executive of the New York Racing Association visited the nation's most historic and important racing town for the first time.

Christopher Kay, a lawyer, brings a solid resume to his new post that glaringly lacks even a tangential exposure to the operation of a racetrack. He claims to have once been a regular visitor to Cahokia Downs, which has been closed for almost 35 years, and relationships with the owners of racehorses, but his background in both the public and private sectors is free of exposure to the business or racing and pari-mutuel gambling.

The future of racing in New York is in the hands of a group overwhelmingly without background in an industry with a long, long learning curve.

This position has been vacant for more than a year and it has long been apparent that the process would not lead to a choice applauded by the racing community, which has assumed a hope-for-the-best posture.

Kay's appointment completes a pick-three in which the favorite has won each leg. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who engineered a nominally temporary state takeover of NYRA using the untimely transgressions of former CEO Charlie Hayward as cover, is openly hostile toward the racing industry while attempting to blanket the state with casinos. David Skorton, who chairs an unwieldy NYRA board dominated by political appointees, brought no racing background to the post. The future of racing in New York is in the hands of a group overwhelmingly without background in an industry with a long, long learning curve. There is no longer an independent voice for the industry in the state that is home to both the nation's most-important racing association and dozens of breeding farms. NYRA is now no more than a state agency doing as it is told but Cuomo's goal was compliance not expertise, which is of no value to a politician. Mission accomplished.

Kay may prove himself to be an effective manager, but his appointment is generally not seen as an encouraging development. His salary, $300,000, is less than half the market value of a proven racing executive and leaves a void of critical operational expertise. Securing the services of a top-class chief operating officer will require a salary that exceeds that of the CEO, so the handwriting is already on the wall. If indeed such a position is created, it will be filled on the cheap.

The appointment of a racing neophyte to one of the industry's most influential positions essentially tightens Cuomo's grip but does not suggest concern for the future of either NYRA or the industry it anchors. Beneath the veneer, this is another political appointment leaving the organization intended to represent all racing interests in the state without a voice to oppose the government, a bloodless coup.

In a world that made sense, NYRA would oppose Cuomo's in-progress expansion of casino gambling that calls for four full-service gambling establishments that will transform the region north of New York City into to something resembling Nevada with trees.

The head of NYRA should be at the fore of those who oppose the wholesale expansion of casino gaming in New York.

At the moment, racinos are in operation at Aqueduct, Finger Lakes and harness racing tracks at Saratoga Springs, Buffalo, Batavia, Monticello, Vernon Downs and Tioga Park. Indian tribes operate casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and the Syracuse region. The state is also home to five off-track betting corporations and a large and aggressive lottery that operates virtually around the clock, an onerous form of regressive taxation that daily leaves a trail of low-income victims in its wake -- a stupidity tax.

Cuomo proposes the addition of four full service casinos to the game-of-chance smorgasbord, an expansion that will only reach further into the pockets of the New York taxpayer inclined to chase fortune in the face of a reality in which only the house wins -- a sure thing on both ends of the equation .

Reliance upon gambling has replaced legislative imagination and leadership in New York and elsewhere, but no opposition will be heard from a racing industry that, justified if silent in outrage, faces certain cannibalization with an exponential acceleration of competition in a market that politicians fail to recognize as finite. All geese so empowered eventually lose the ability to lay golden eggs.

The head of NYRA should be at the fore of those who oppose the wholesale expansion of casino gaming in New York.

Don't hold your breath.